U.S. Textiles: 2019 Builds Foundation For Successful 2020

BornemanBy Jim Borneman, Editor In Chief

As 2019 comes to a close, it’s an eventful year to look back on, as well as a fairly strong year in many ways featuring innovation in technology, investment and positive business environment.

The much anticipated ITMA 2019 yielded strong results in a very show heavy year.

As summarized in “ITMA 2019: Positive Reviews,” by TW’s Executive Editor Rachael Davis, a real look into the thoughts of on-the-floor exhibitors paints a fairly optimistic picture of the industry going forward.

The year 2019 saw a fair amount of investment in the industry, but also saw some businesses close for various reasons including capacity and business line adjustments.

Certainly the state of trade, trade agreements and tariffs has garnered a fair share of attention. The point where business and politics intersect is always a challenge, certainly when good policy stalls on “political win” politics. But trade issues don’t end there. With 2020 an election year and severe political division, businesses can only hunker down and focus on quality, service and innovation to keep the U.S. industry’s momentum.

European and Asian economies still face major challenges that will have an impact on the United States. Who would have imagined an economic environment that led to negative interest rates.

Many of the strongest technology manufacturers are based in Europe and are dependent on Mid-Eastern and Asian markets for sales volume. The United States is a significant market, but not a volume market. Between the Euro zone challenges and volume sales growth challenges, some consolidations and realignments may be on the horizon for textile technology companies in 2020.

Next year will be a calmer exposition and meeting year than the 2019 whirlwind. Expect nonwoven and technical textiles to play a significant role with FiltXPO™, INDEX™ and Techtextil North America leading off the 2020 calendar. Smaller meetings and conferences should be well attended in 2020’s less crowded event schedule.

And don’t forget, there is still plenty of innovations to digest from the wealth of technology on display at ITMA in Barcelona. U.S. interest surprised some exhibitors at ITMA and it will be interesting to see if that enthusiasm carries through to investments in 2020. Election year uncertainty and political gamesmanship will play its role in 2020 investment decisions, but for many, the ability to upgrade and have a positive impact on manufacturing capability will outweigh any of those uncertainties.

Tight labor markets will continue to cause challenges even with increases in automation. China trade will increase challenges in the agricultural sector of the economy, so it’s worth keeping an eye on domestic cotton production. Resolution of China trade issues could give a real green-light to U.S. textile production and investment.

Will a Black Swan land in 2020 and how will it impact U.S. textiles? Who knows, and that’s why those unexpected, unforeseeable events or inventions are called Black Swans. But if the United States textile industry, with all it has been through, is poised to react, embrace and leverage a Black Swan into a positive, the industry wins — and it can do so faster than competing markets. The industry’s flexibility, focus on innovation, and investment will lead the way in 2020.

November/December 2019